The Love Boat
Obsmama, Maxandmo, Carenl, Mtneer05, GeekChic12 and Kikki007 are my naughty elves.
Chapter 14 Stones
I followed Alice as she dragged me from one luxury boutique to the next, wishing the entire time I had just offered to be Edward's caddy. I could do that, right? How hard could it be to roll a stupid bag on wheels from one hole to the next? It's basically what I was doing anyway. Except these bags didn't have wheels.
"Stop trying to distract me. It's not going to work."
I lifted my hands to shake several bags of her purchases. "It kind of is."
"Whatever." She rolled her eyes. "Really, what were those blue bands you told Edward to wear?"
I took a deep breath, not bothering to look up from the jewelry cases. "Edward bought a whole set of those bands on the ship. Each color indicates an…I don't know…like a predilection."
"A predilection? For what?"
I looked up to see her staring at me with her eyebrows raised. "Um—you know, for this stuff," I said, motioning in the general direction of the docked ship.
Alice looked at me blankly, and I let out an exasperated breath. "For the swinging."
"Really?" she whispered back.
"So they're for like different positions and stuff?"
I looked around and saw too many people milling around. "Can we go get lunch?"
"Deflecting," Alice chirped.
"I'm not," I defended. "I just want to go somewhere…less crowded."
With the promise of an explanation, Alice wasted no time in finding a cute café that offered beautiful outdoor seating and picturesque Caribbean views. As soon as the waiter left our table, Alice folded her hands and leaned toward me with a raised eyebrow. "Spill."
I took a deep breath. "So each color of bracelet indicates what you're willing to do in the Swinger Community."
Alice stared back at me with rapt attention.
"There's like ten colors," I said as I fiddled with the white band I was still wearing. I tugged it to show to Alice. "White means 'just looking.'"
"Yeah, it's for new people. Or people who don't want offers."
"Oh, you mean swayers?"
I tried to think if Edward had used that term, but I didn't think he had. "Swayers?"
"Yeah, those are the people who like to be around the community but don't really participate," she explained. "Get it, swingers and swayers?"
"Where did you hear that?"
"Do you remember the Squirtsperts?" Alice asked. "Amanda totally had you pegged as a swayer. She said you weren't ready to share. Yet."
"Really?" I was a little disappointed, as if I wasn't good enough to be a full-fledged swinger, which was totally irrational, because I did not want to swing. "Maybe she saw my bracelet." I lifted my wrist again for emphasis.
Alice shrugged, but I could tell she didn't really think that was the case.
"Anyway, purple is for voyeurs and exhibitionists."
"Pink for soft swap."
"What's a soft swap?"
"Soft swaps are like making out with another couple. Or oral or handies..."
"Oh, you mean elevator action?" she asked with a gleeful smile.
"Shut up!" I teased, playfully kicking her under the table.
"Ow," Alice exaggerated. "You don't have to get violent," she jokingly mumbled before chuckling.
"Do you want me to keep going?"
"Oh yes, there's nothing I love more than color-coded sex acts!"
"Oh my god," I choked out, trying to keep as much of my sip of water in my mouth as possible.
Alice smiled proudly, handing me her napkin.
"Thanks," I said, patting my chin dry.
"You were saying?"
"Soft swap is all of those things. Everything except actual sex. And your real-life partner is in the room while you—you know, swap."
"Ahh." Alice nodded again in understanding.
"Then there's like four or five colors of full swap; that's everything, including actual sex."
"What's the difference in the colors then?"
I had to think back a bit. What was the difference? "Um...location? The lowest levels have both couples in the same room and for the higher ones, they can be further apart. There's also something about both partners approving the other's choice. Edward has a chart."
"A chart? What are you going to do? Carry it around and look at it every time you see a bracelet?"
"No. I'm going to wear my 'leave me alone' white and think all the other colors are just varying shades of kinky."
"You know, you shouldn't be so judgmental. We met a lot of really nice people last night."
"I'm not judgmental!"
"You kind of are," she said assuredly.
"So, the light blues ones…"
"Deflection." Why does she always 'chirp' that? It's bad enough that she's spot on with calling me on it, but she had to use that singsong voice, too.
I raised my eyebrow and tilted my head. She knew the look.
"Fine. Tell me."
"The light blue ones mean the wearer is bi-sexual."
Alice let out an unladylike bark of laugher. "Are you serious?"
I nodded, grinning.
"I wish I could see them! You know if they have to go off into the rough to find their ball, people will totally think they're sneaking off for some tryst!"
"You don't think they actually wore them, do you?"
"Jasper probably did."
I giggled with her. Jasper probably would.
I pushed my salad around the plate as I mindlessly nodded and hmm'ed at Alice's chatter. I'm not sure why I'd even ordered it, because I really didn't feel like eating. My stomach was still in knots, and it probably would be until I resolved things with Edward.
I took advantage of the lull in the conversation caused by an uncharacteristically large forkful of pasta Alice shoved into her mouth. "You know Alice, I'm not feeling great. Would you mind if I just went back to the ship?"
Alice's eyes drifted from mine, to my plate and back. Concern was apparent on her face as she realized I was picking at my food rather than eating it. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I think I just want to lie down and get some rest." I shrugged my shoulders.
"Edward?" She knew, but up until now, she'd let me pretend.
"What are you going to say to him?"
"I don't know," I said, setting my fork down for good. "I guess I'm going to apologize for being bratty last night and making him carry me to bed. And for taking off this morning, and then, you know, the thing right before we left." I let out an exasperated sigh. Alice smiled tentatively, a signal for me to continue. "And I think I need to tell him explicitly that I'm interested and that I want to go forward with him. Hence, the dry lunch." I pointed at my glass full of non-alcoholic water.
"And then I'll probably tell him golf is stupid, and I stormed off because it felt like he was choosing that over me. I totally shouldn't have, because I have no right to demand all of his time like that."
Alice's smile had broadened to take over her entire face. She clasped her hands together under her chin. I chuckled at how ridiculous she looked. She got the same look when we watched sappy movies and the idiots who kept missing each other, or kept misunderstanding each other, finally got together.
"Don't look at me like that!"
"But…you're going to marry my cousin and have beautiful babies and finally be my real sister!"
"Oh my god, Alice. I just met him three days ago!"
"You've known him your whole life!" she scoffed.
"And he's your cousin; that wouldn't make us sisters. It wouldn't even make us cousins. I know, because I looked it up when we were in high school." I looked away and blushed when I realized I had inadvertently let out one of the few secrets I kept from Alice as kids.
Even though pretty much everyone knew I had a crush on Edward, I was too shy and embarrassed to admit it, even to Alice. I only doodled his name in my most secret notebooks, and when Alice suggested I could marry into her family, I always brushed it off.
"You don't have to act all embarrassed. We all knew you had a crush on Edward. It was cute." She smirked.
"Yeah, on that note, I think I'm going to head back to the ship."
She faked a pout.
"Are you sure you'll be okay by yourself?"
"Please, I'll get twice as much shopping done without dragging your mopey ass along," she teased, giving me a final hug and a wave goodbye.
By the time I arrived back at the cabin, I was exhausted. I dropped Alice's bags, that she insisted I carry back to the ship, to the floor with a heavy thunk. Shoot, I didn't mean to just drop them like that. I hope there wasn't anything breakable in them.
Housekeeping must have come, because the bed was remade and there was a cute little elephant made out of towels. I picked it up and tried to figure out the fold, but there was no way that was happening. I gave up and crawled up on the bed, cuddling my new terrycloth pet.
"Bella? Bella." Someone was shaking me.
I sat up, blinking rapidly, trying to focus. "I think I fell asleep."
"Yeah, I could tell. Heard you snoring through the door."
"I do not snore."
"Yes, you do."
"I do?" I asked, embarrassed. Did I snore? Did I wake him up at night?
"Yes, you do. But, I couldn't really hear you through the door. They're soft, ladylike snores," he said with a placating tone.
I snorted. I'm sure that was ladylike too.
"Why are you holding a towel?"
I looked down at the completely unfolded towel in my lap. "Oh no! I wanted to show you! They folded it up somehow into an elephant. It was really cute. I think the ends were the ears, and this was twisted into a trunk," I explained, holding up different parts of the towel.
He chuckled. "I'll have to trust you."
"So," I hedged, nervously. "How was the fourteenth hole?"
"I don't know. I left after the fourth."
"I—I wanted to come back and see if you were okay. You seemed pretty upset, so I left early."
"How did you know I'd be here? I left with Alice."
He shrugged. "I just had a feeling she'd out-shop you."
Three soft knocks came through the door. Edward turned to open it, revealing a beautiful brunette with a feathered bob. My immediate thought was that Edward had invited her back to the cabin thinking he'd be alone. I wanted to disappear from embarrassment and claw her eyes out at the same time.
"Mr. Cullen…" she started to say before her eyes landed on me. "Oh, hello there." She waved, giving me a friendly smile. I noticed the brass name tag pinned to her smart little navy blue suit. She was a cruise line employee.
She turned back to Edward. "I see your wife is back after all, which is perfect because everything is all set up, as we discussed."
"Thank you." Almost as an afterthought, he twisted to speak to both of us. "Julie, this is Bella. Bella, this is our cruise director, Julie. She's been helping me with a couple of things."
"Oh really?" I narrowed my eyes to study him. He was definitely up to something. "Like what?"
"You'll see." He winked. I'd hate that damn wink if my insides didn't go all gooey every time he gave me one.
My eyes shifted from Edward's beautiful, devilish smirk to Julie's brilliant, friendly smile.
"Come on," Edward said, taking my hand. "I have a surprise for you."
"What kind of a surprise?" I asked apprehensively. "I don't like surprises. Except good surprises. I like good surprises."
"Oh, it's good," he said as he pulled me past the cruise director, who was still standing in the doorway. "Thank you again, Julie. I owe you the biggest, frilliest drink on this ship."
She smiled impossibly bigger. "Make it a skinny margarita, no salt, and you've got a deal!"
"You got it," he said as he pulled me down the hall. I think he might have winked at her too, because she looked a little wobbly when I looked at her over my shoulder. His winks had that power on everyone.
"Isaac knows how I like them!" she softly shouted down the hall as she waved goodbye.
I touched Edward's forearm to get his attention. "Did the cruise director, 'Julie' really just say the bartender's name was Isaac?"
He shrugged as he punched the elevator button.
"Do not tell Jasper," I warned. "He'll never stop singing that damned theme to The Love Boat."
I didn't know where he was dragging us until he pulled me through the doors of the Acidalia
"A spa, Edward?" I was really excited and a little scared. I'd never been to a spa before.
"I know we need to talk. I need to apologize to you, but I thought we could use a little relaxation first."
How could I even respond to that? Before I could tell Edward how thoughtful and perfect he was, and how I was the one who needed to apologize, a tall blonde with the most serene face I'd ever seen walked into the room.
I guessed if I spent eight or ten hours a day in a spa surrounded by the tinkling of water fountains, chirping birds, and New Age music, I might have had that look of bliss too.
Maybe not, because the sound of the running water made me have to pee.
"Hello. Welcome to Acidalia Spa. I'm Caren," she greeted in a soothing tone before she really looked at us. Her breath caught "Oh, you must be Mr. Cullen!"
I knew that reaction. It was the same one I had three days ago at Rusty's and the same one I'd had every time I'd seen him since.
"My reputation precedes me?" Edward asked cheekily.
Her smoky eyes blinked rapidly behind the heavy frames of her trendy glasses as she blushed. "Yeah— I mean no. Sorry. Julie just called to say you were coming."
"Caren, this is my wife, Bella," he said, placing a hand on the small of my back. "We're here for a couple's massage."
"We are?" I asked.
He nodded, a little unsure. "It's part of my apology." He said it quietly, as if he only wanted me to hear, but I saw Caren smirk out of the corner of my eye.
Caren handed each of us a robe. "Undress as much as you're comfortable; I'll be back to get you as soon as your room is ready."
I could swear I heard her sigh when Edward gave her one of his charming smiles.
"Would you like anything to drink while you wait? Wine? Champagne?"
I shook my head. I wanted a clear head for this talk with Edward. And even through all the confusion and rejection, the logical part of my brain knew Alice was right, and Edward was holding back because he thought I was drunk. I didn't want any chance of another misunderstanding.
Edward gave me a small, knowing smile and turned back to her. "I think we'll be fine. Thank you, Caren."
She nodded and backed out of the room, pulling the curtain closed behind her and leaving us in an awkward silence.
He set his robe on the bench and took a step to stand directly in front of me. He let one hand slide from my shoulder to my elbow and the other cupped my face as he brushed my cheek with his thumb.
"Bella," he nearly whispered. "I'm sorry. For this morning. And last night."
"Me too." I nodded. "Did you want to undress me?" I squeezed my eyes closed and grimaced in embarrassment. Where in the hell did that come from?
"You have no idea how fucking bad—" Edward mumbled under his breath.
I squeezed the folded robe closer to my chest.
"Yeah—" Edward said with a wry grin, "and don't think I don't know what you're doing. We can't keep avoiding talking about whatever this is between us."
I nodded and stood in silence. My eyes drifted to stare at the ceiling for a while; then followed the line where it met the wall around. I paused to consider the Mediterranean landscape print on one wall and several of the large fresco panels with scalloped shells, doves, and roses painted in pale greens, blues, and silvers on the others. I wondered if the placid art really did lead to a more relaxing experience.
I glanced back to Edward to see him undressing. My eyes quickly moved back to the wall before slowly finding their way back to him. I tried to watch surreptitiously, but he looked up and caught me with a wink.
I chuckled nervously, and he went back on task, unbuckling his belt.
"How far do you go?" I asked quietly.
He looked up at me confused for a moment before the sides of his mouth turned up and a twinkle came to his eyes. "I go all the way." He winked.
My head tilted to the side, and I raised my eyebrows at him. "I meant, how much do you usually take off. For the massage."
"I know." He smiled smugly. "By the way, my wink still makes you blush."
I hid my face in the robe. "Stop doing that! I can't control it."
"But I love your blush."
I lifted my face and opened one eye to see his charming smile. "Ugh. Stop that too! That 'I can get away with anything I want because I'll dazzle her with my smile' smile. You'll make me forget why I'm annoyed with you!"
"I'm okay with that."
"Of course you are," I huffed. "I meant, how far do you undress for one of these massages?"
"I know. It's still the same answer. All the way." He winked again.
I tried to hide my gulp. "All the way? Completely—" I lowered my voice, "naked?"
"But, what about your—" I gestured toward the area below his waist.
"They drape sheets over your more delicate areas."
"Your areas are delicate?"
"What? No!" His smile hardened into defensive scowl. "My parts are most definitely not delicate."
I bit back a giggle.
"You wanna see?" he asked, sliding his thumbs inside the top of his waistband.
I gasped and turned my back to him. "No! I mean, yes. Oh god. Just…just not here." My voice came out as a harsh whisper.
Edward chuckled. "Bella, you should undress as much as you're comfortable with. Completely naked is fine, but you'll be fine in your bra and panties too. Or you can stay fully dressed. This is supposed to be relaxing."
I hummed in understanding, still facing away from him.
"You can turn around, I'm all covered now."
Even in a fluffy, white robe, with sleeves a little too short for his long arms, Edward looked incredibly sexy. The wiry chest hair peeking out from his robe reminded me of how I felt the last time I saw it as he hovered above me. I let my eyes drift to where his robe hit mid-thigh. Somehow it made his muscular thighs look even more obscene than they did even in his boxer briefs. My mind wandered. If he was completely nude underneath, what was to keep his manhood from poking out?
Startled, I shook the thoughts from my head and lifted my head to see the biggest smirk ever smirked on his face. He totally knew I was checking him out, and the blush that heated my face only proved it more.
"Are you going to actually change? Caren should be back at any moment."
"Oh yeah," I said with a relieved sigh. "Could you, um— turn around or something?"
Always the gentleman, Edward complied. I quickly stripped down to my panties, feeling brave by forgoing my bra, and slipped the robe on just as Caren called out a verbal "knock knock," and entered the room.
"Are you two all ready? Kikki and Karoline are ready for you now," she said cheerfully.
I nodded and started to follow her out of the room. Edward came up behind me, and leaned down to whisper in my ear. "I watched you in the reflection."
I looked past him, over my shoulder, to see the entire room reflected perfectly in the glass of the large print hanging on the wall. I narrowed my eyes to give him a look of admonishment, but he looked so sweet and angelic when he winked at me that my irritation seemed to vanish. Stupid freaking magic wink.
Caren led us past a replica of the Venus de Milo and into a treatment room. "Bella, this is Karoline. She's wonderful with first timers."
As soon as we walked into the room, I noticed two vinyl-covered massage tables standing a couple of feet apart. I blanched as my mind flashed to the middle-aged man walking around the decks of the ship clad in nothing but a speedo and a fanny pack with soft-serve ice cream and sweat dripping down their potbellies. I wondered how many of them had been on these very tables.
Edward touched my wrist to get my attention and quietly whispered in my ear, "They sanitize the tables between clients. And see, they're putting down fresh sheets."
I smiled at him, embarrassed to be caught with my crazy showing. He winked again.
Karoline made her way around the table, shaking my hand and directing me to lie on the table on my back before she turned around to let me adjust the sheet to cover myself. I heard Kikki introduce herself to Edward. What kind of massage therapist was she anyway? Weren't they supposed to be thick, heavy women with tree trunks for legs and sausage fingers and have blonde braids wrapped around their heads? Shouldn't she be named something like Helga, not Kikki?
Karoline explained what she was doing as she started rubbing hot rocks on my calf and leg, but my mind was still reeling about the woman a foot away rubbing on Edward's naked body. What kind of name was Kikki anyway? She sounded like a femme fatale from a James Bond movie or something. I'll bet her last name was something like Lovecock. And Edward probably took one look at her big brown eyes and her hair pulled back into a smart knot and he totally ignored the fact that with a name like Kikki Lovecock, she was obviously a villain.
I was ripped from my thoughts when Karoline tried to slip small, flat rocks between my toes, and my leg jerked back, knocking the stones she had lined down my shin off.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Are you ticklish?" Karoline asked. "Here, we'll just wrap your legs and let them soak in the heat." She re-lined my shins with the stones and wrapped my entire leg in a warm, moist towel. It felt wonderful.
Edward and Kikki chuckled, and I wanted to shrink in embarrassment.
"That's one of my favorite things about her - her ticklishness," Edward said in a flat, relaxed almost monotone. "And her blush. Have you seen her blush?"
I turned my head to see Edward lying completely still with his eyes closed and Kikki also working on his legs, clicking her stones together as she worked her way down.
"Ah, yes. In fact, she's blushing right now," she whispered loud enough for me to hear.
"She's beautiful, isn't she?" Edward turned his head toward me, and his sweet, half smile did nothing to temper the smoldering look in his eyes that made me want to jump him right on the table. Which was really unfair considering I was practically swaddled in towels with rocks lined up on my legs and lying on a table two feet away.
My eyes closed as Karoline traced a small stone along the contours of my face. The relaxing circuit was just starting to lull me to sleep when she tapped on my shoulder and asked me to flip over onto my stomach.
She worked my back, loosening much more tension than I realized I was holding, and I couldn't help but sigh and moan appreciatively as she worked.
Edward let out a deep groan too, prompting Kikki to ask if she was pushing too hard. Oddly, he said she wasn't.
I could have stayed under Karoline's skillful hands all day, but all too soon, she laid the warm stones along my spine and shoulders and instructed me to just relax and soak in their heat. Kikki gave Edward the same instructions, and they excused themselves, promising to be back when the stones had cooled.
"Psst," Edward called from his table.
I opened my eyes to see his position mirroring my own. He reached his hand toward me. "Give me your hand."
"Can't. Can't move. My rocks will fall off."
"Don't you want to get your rocks off?"
I didn't need to look at him to see the smirk on his stupid face.
I rolled my eyes behind my closed eyelids, but the truth was that his plea did something to my insides. "Fine." I reached out to him, causing the stones to slide off my arm and plink onto the floor.
His fingertips tickled my palm as he reached for a better hold. The sensation traveled up my arm and into my body. I swore I could feel it in my toes.
"I want to apologize for last night…"
"I'd say this takes care of that in spades. I seriously don't know if I've ever felt this good," I said with my eyes still closed, trying to lie as still as possible.
His fingertips continued to play with my own. "But I also wanted to explain."
I opened my eyes to see his beautiful, bottle green eyes looking at me with an intensity that almost took my breath away.
"Was it because I hiccupped? Because everybody does it. It's the sequel to Everyone Poops."
Edward chuckled, and I smiled at my own joke. "No…well, sort of. You just seem to be different when you're drinking. You're so much more…receptive, and that hiccup just made me wonder if you really wanted me," he said quietly. "I wondered if you had been sober if you wouldn't have just changed the subject with some joke."
"I wasn't that drunk."
"You were definitely tipsy. And it was enough for me to question what you really wanted."
"I really wanted you."
Edward groaned quietly.
"I haven't had anything to drink today," I said.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "I still really want you."
This time, Edward's groan was much louder, and accompanied by the thud of more stones falling to the floor as he crossed the two feet that separated us. I turned on my hip, my own rocks falling to the floor, just as he took my face in his hands.
Seeing his amazing body clearly zapped all coherent thought from my brain. "You're naked."
His lips turned into his that sexy smirk of his, and his eyes seemed to sparkle. He glanced down where the drape had slipped off my nearly nude body. "You're almost naked."
He pressed his mouth to mine, rolling me on my back. As soon as his lips touched mine, the gauze of wooziness returned, and I needed to touch him, to hold him. One hand curled around his bicep and the other slid up his chest. I moaned when I felt the muscles in his arm flex as his hands tangled in my hair.
Edward broke the kiss, his eyes boring into mine. "Do you have any idea what those moans do to me? Do you know how fucking hard it was for me to lay there, across the room, when you were doing that to me?"
"During the massage, you moaned— thank god you didn't start until we were on our stomachs or Kikki would think I have some kind of massage fetish."
"Hmm…based on the elevator last night, you do get off on being rubbed." My hand trailed down his chest. "Is that your kink, Edward? Do you like to be—rubbed?"
Edward gasped as my hand slid lower and closed over his hardening erection.
I heard a much more feminine gasp. "Oh my god!"
Lighting fast, I withdrew from Edward, covering my face with my hands and turning over onto my belly to hide as much as I possibly could.
Edward muttered an expletive, and I felt the sheet cover me back up to my shoulders. I peeked between my fingers to see Edward standing between his table and mine with his drape wrapped around his waist looking almost as embarrassed as me. "Thank you," I whispered, grateful he had enough thought to cover me while he took cover himself.
I wanted to shrink down to nothing so I could just get out of this room without having to face anyone. How could I act like that in a public place? I blamed Edward. He'd hypnotized me with his stupid, sexy smirk.
"Um…" Kikki called from the hall. "I was just coming to remove your stones. But you seem to have done that already. That was but, B-U-T, not butt B-U-T-T, because I didn't see any ass—thing, I didn't see anything!"
Oh, god. Could this get any worse? Why was I tempting fate?
"You guys are done, I mean here. I don't know if you're done-done. Yeah. You can go back to room three when you're ready to re-dress. You can keep the robes. They're complimentary with any Acidalia Spa service."
Yep. It could definitely get worse. I shook my head in my hands, wishing the floor would swallow me whole.
"Bella, here's your robe." Edward nudged my shoulder.
"Thank you." I reached for it without looking and quickly slipped off the table and into the robe. Edward took my hand and led me to our things. He could have led me off a gangplank for all I knew, because my eyes never left the floor.
Once in the room, Edward and I re-dressed in our clothes in complete silence and with eyes averted. Or at least, mine were. He took my hand again, leading the way out of the spa. Just as we passed the front desk, I heard Caren whisper, "You should get the purple bracelets."
Shocked, I glanced at the white band on my wrist and back at her, just in time to see her wink.
I know it's been a while, thank you so much for coming back and reading! Who wouldn't want a naked Edward in the spa?